Monthly Archives: March 2013

Photography: Easter

At home in Geneva this Easter Weekend. Fun project with the girls to take pictures reminding us of Jesus, the cross and His resurrection.

“…This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls…” 1 Peter 2:21 -25 – The Message Bible

Geneva: Garden railing cross

“… I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God;For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels …” Isaiah 61:10 – New King James Version

Geneva:cross in the house
Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013

You can see more of my picures at www.bendebruynphotography.com

Photography: Emotions – Own Thoughts

“… In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul …” – Psalm 94:19 – New King James version

Istanbul: Spice Market – Woman selling spices

“… But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary,They shall walk and not faint …”; Isaiah 40:31 – New King James Version

Concert at Red Square – Waiting for the kids
Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013

You can see more of my picures at www.bendebruynphotography.com

Chapter 4: Baptism

I like to be in control of a situation. This has been the case for most of my life. Perhaps it should then not come as a big surprise that when it came to baptism, at first I did my very best to avoid the topic. The next stage was to try and gather as many possible arguments on why it was not necessary to submit to God in this way. For a long time I clung to the knowledge that I was christened as a baby. Subconsciously baptism must have represented a final step in completely letting go and I was struggling to overcome the hurdle in my mind on this front.  Control was holding me back for a long time.

In Acts 2:38 (New International Version, ©2010) Peter said “… Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …”. Contemplating on this verse and understanding that baptism was not a means of forgiveness and salvation but rather an act of obedience, strangely as it may seem, also made my decision very difficult. With my rational mind I continued to argue that having accepted Jesus died for my sins has already saved me. So why then take the further step to be baptised and in the process profess my faith in this manner?  The interesting thing about having accepted Jesus as Saviour is that things started to change inside my very being. The way how I think about things has changed. This is an evolving process where thought patterns redevelop and where changes take place at a multitude of levels inside me. This I could never have imagined!  As part of this process and, I have to admit with some agonising at times, I have realised that I was shaking off shackles around my mind and heart which prevented me from taking the step to be baptised. I cannot explain how this change process worked. The more time I spent in silent contemplation with God, the more I understood the need for baptism and gradually developed a wish to do so. This also took a lot of courage, especially at the age of 44 to do so.

On 26 September 2010 I was baptised by John Woodrow at our Geneva home in the garden in the blow-up swimming pool of our kids. I was joined by Carine, our daughters Lisa and Emma and many friends of the mens group who meet on Thursday evenings at our home, together with wives and girlfriends. Why at home you may ask? It was a very personal experience and I wished to share this experience with those people who were close to me in during this part of my journey. I have to confess that I was petrified that something strange might happen during the baptism experience. God, off course, knew what I was capable of dealing with and apart from a strange floating sensation there was no real physical impact. In 1 Peter 3:21 (New International Version, ©2010), Peter tells us that “… and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God …”.

On an emotional level it was different as I received the gift of the Spirit and have subsequently realised that I had a new responsibility to intensify my walk with God. Peter describes the fruit of the Spirit  as follows‘’… For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love…” – 2 Peter 5:7(New International Version, ©2010)). I am becoming more aware of the wrong doings in my life and where I need to change. Off course thoughts were rather uncomfortable at first. It has also been my experience that the closer I move to God, the more aware I become of the sins in my life. However, on the other hand I have become so much more aware and thankful for His many blessings which I am receiving every day. Even before I accepted Jesus as saviour, I loved the hymn “… Amazing Grace …” which was written by John Newton. Somehow I have always found comfort in the words and the tune and still do. The meaning is so much deeper now.

“… Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believe d…

John Newton (1725-1807) Stanza 6 anon

Many artists have sung of this beautiful hymn. If you wish, here are two you might want to listen to:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mnTKN8LuiY

(Hayley Westenra – singing a cappella at a memorial service in Christchurch New Zeeland – www.hayleywestenra.com)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsCp5LG_zNE

(video by Celtic Woman – www.celticwoman.com)

Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013

Photography: Emotions – Downcast

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?…Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him – Psalm 42:5, New King James version

Paris: Montmartre clown 1 July 2012

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”; Philippians 4:6, New King James Version

Paris: Street art near Pompidou museum 2 July 2012
Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013

You can see more of my picures at www.bendebruynphotography.com

Chapter 3 – Swopping continents

In early 2006 a decision was made for Brait to focus exclusively on its core private equity business and to close down the investment banking business. At times this felt surreal – on the one hand I was part of overseeing the organised winding-down of the business, trying to accommodate team members within the organization or to seek other viable alternatives. On the other hand I was directly impacted as I was soon to be unemployed.

Since my student days I have developed a great fondness for the Western Cape region in South Africa, in particular the town of Stellenbosch and the surrounding wine growing regions. My dream was always to one day settle our family there. We could then enjoy the majestic mountain and vineyards views and perhaps, as I have always dreamed, make my own wine. Many of our friends had migrated from the Johannesburg region to the Western Cape and this was an opportunity to follow them.

A move to the Western Cape would also have brought us much closer to where our parents now live. My parents had retired close to the coastal town of Knysna in the Southern Cape region, sometimes referred to as ‘little Switzerland’ of South Africa. Carine’s parents live within an hour and a half’s drive from Cape Town, near the coastal town of Hermanus. As you will see from the pictures below (first two of the Hermanus region and last two of Knysna Heads and Sedgefield beach), both these regions are some of the most beautiful parts of South Africa.


I started to make a few exploratory calls to friends and business contacts in that part of the country to get a feel for potential employment opportunities. It was amazing that during this period of uncertainty both Carine and I experienced a tremendous sense of calm and excitement and somehow just knew that things will turn out well. It certainly did, but very differently from the plans I was busy formulating in my mind!

Out of the blue I received a phone call from Switzerland. I can still remember taking this call in the underground parking garage at Brait as I was about to leave the office for the day.  One of the principals of a Swiss banking and asset management group, and past investment banking client with who I had periodic contact, was on the line. He was considering a sabbatical and was wondering if I would be interesting to step into his place whilst he was away and look after his responsibilities for the group’s private equity business. The investment focus was primarily focussed on companies who operate in the Russian Federation (“Russia”). As you might imagine, I was rather taken aback by the proposal which was for our family to move to Geneva, Switzerland and for me to spend time in Russia pursuing transactions. This was also a far cry from my Western Cape dream and the plans I have been starting to formulate!

I then remembered Carine’s plea to me before we got married, which was to never ask her to leave South Africa to live in Europe. This was understandable considering that Carine loves to build deep relationships with people over a long time and likes to be close to her family. Therefore, a move to the Western Cape region seemed to make a lot of sense to us. I mentioned Carine’s view during our telephone conversation, but committed to tell her about the proposal and, depending on her views we will decide to think it over. It was a horrible timing to discuss this with Carine as she was supporting a dear mutual friend who’s husband had unexpectedly passed away a few days earlier.

Carine’s advise was sound. We have to pray and then listen to what God has in mind for us. This may sound strange, but I have learned by now that it works, as long as one is prepared to make dedicated time to hear His voice. I was much more immature in my walk with Jesus at that time, so was rather nervous. It eventually sunk in that we should consider the opportunity seriously. It did not take long to realise that the road map God had in mind was very different from what I was trying to design. We sought further confirmation from God and especially Carine prayed a lot during that time. The answer was not one we expected as all the guidance we received from God was strongly pointing us towards Geneva! He clearly had plans for us in Switzerland, although we did not know what they were (after nearly seven years in Geneva I have also learned that patience and perseverance, which I will talk about in later chapters, are important in the unfolding of God’s plans for us). Carine also received prophetic confirmation that we should embrace this challenge and opportunity. It took a bit of time for the news to sink in. I then pursued the opportunity, we quickly settled terms and some four months later our family arrived in Geneva on a very hot July summer’s day in 2006. A new chapter was about to begin.

It has been some time since that day and many changes have taken place in our lives. I initially wrote this paragraph late at night in early December 2010, comfortably holed up in a hotel room and surrounded in a snow covered and bitter cold Moscow, listening to a French version of a well known Afrikaans folk song. A world away from our African dream and its warm December summer nights.

God has a greater plan for us

Over time I have been able to reflect with more clarity on the road which has brought us to Geneva. I have come to realise that Jesus’s plan with our family was so much greater than what I could ever have imagined. I have mentioned that I have always longed for the Western Cape, its mountains and vineyards. In turn, what God gave us is the wonderland of lake Geneva, the majestic Alps, the Jura and the Saleve mountains all around us.  And yes, the surrounding countryside is littered with vineyards and wine producers! It took me a good three years to make this connection and have now realised that His plans for us are infinitely better than those we are able to conceive.

For those of you who have moved from one country to another or are in the process of doing so will know that there are many challenges to face along the way. There have been times where I have felt that all the odds were stacked up against me. That caused frustration and I have experienced seeds of doubt along the way and have asked why we undertook the journey in the first place. Everything was also difficult at first. Take language for example. The spoken language in Geneva is predominantly French. Mundane matters such as working out how parking meters work, what products to buy, to make appointments and many more small things make you feel like a first grader again. It was very difficult to secure accommodation due to demand supply imbalances, everything is horrifically expensive and it is virtually impossible to understand many of the forms to complete, arrange for telephone and utility connections and to find suitable schools for the kids. Small things can become mountains to cross in your mind and discouragement is tempting you around every corner.

When Lisa turned four in August 2006 just after we arrived at her birthday party she asked “… Mommy, why is there no friends at my party? … ” This breaks your heart. We had to tell her that it was because we knew nobody. There we were, strangers in a new country. This reminds me of words of an Afrikaans song of Liza Beekman (www.lizebeekman.co.za) where she sing about the immenseness of the dry Karoo region in South Africa – “… Ek het ver gery op n nuwe pad vir die eerste keer … Dit was die langste tyd van byna niks, maar die kortste pad na waar ek wou wees. … Dit was a groot verdwaal op n reguit pad – The Song is titled – “Ek het n boer sien dans” (I saw a farmer dancing) – video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ekZGs6sFa8 from her 2008 album – “Sit ‘n Bietjie Langs My” (I have travelled a long way on a new road and I did so for the first time. It felt like an endless time of virtually nothing, but was the quickest way to where I would have liked to be. I was so lost on a road which had no turns). I have felt many of these emotions in the journey to Geneva and at some challenging times we have encountered thereafter.

We travelled back to South Africa from time to time during December to enjoy Southern hemisphere summer holidays in the Western and Southern Cape and spend time with our parents, family and friends. We do so when finances allow as it is important for us as our parents are growing older and frailer as the years roll by and we want to spend as much time as we can with them. We also wish that our children get to know their grandparents as well as the distance between us allow.  Returning to Switzerland from these holidays was rather difficult, especially at first. When we enjoyed beach adventures, excellent food and good wine and time spent with loved ones there is the inevitably silent comparison between this apparent place of milk and honey and Geneva where we have to face some strenuous challenges from time to time (the `what if` scenario had we stayed in South Africa comes by sometimes). We have also been tempted over the past few years to return on more than one occasion, but  that it is not God’s will for us to do so yet – we know that He still has great plans for us abroad. That has not always been easy to understand, especially during those times when I saw how unhappy Carine initially was during our first few years in Geneva. At times, and especially of late, it has also not been easy for me (more about this later). However, in the back of our minds was a vision Carine received before I gave my heart to Jesus and before she knew what a vision was  – that I will one day be responsible to control meaningful funds to further God’s Kingdom and glory.

Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013

Chapter 2 – A bang on the head

Carine thought that I may benefit from the Alpha course of Nicky Gumbel which was held at weekly sessions at our church. I was seeking answers on matters of faith and agreed to do so. I am not proud of my behaviour in the first few sessions as I was overcome by rationale thoughts which made me argumentative and defensive. At times I was a real pain in the neck in the small group sessions and for some unexplained reason, I was seeking with my head and not my heart. Thinking back, it reminds me of a Casting Crowns (http://castingcrowns.com) song which I have listened to recently (www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW5unzXXC0k):

“… Leave it all behind, I have what you need, but you keep on searching; I have done all the work, but you keep on searching; when you are running on empty and cannot find a remedy, just come to the well … You can spend your whole life chasing what is missing, but the empty inside, you just ain’t going to lessen; when nothing can satisfy and the world leaves you high and dry, just come to the well…; and all who thirst will thirst no more, and all who search will find what their souls are looking for…“

The day started as another typical working day. Fighting morning traffic and arriving at the offices of Brait Limited (“Brait”) where I was co-heading the investment banking business at the time. We finished our regular morning meeting and I was about to get up from my chair when I was suddenly struck by a very sharp and severe pain at the top of my head. When I regained my consciousness, I vaguely recollected some crashing noise and a scream in the room. I was lying under the board room table, face down and my head was throbbing badly. I felt a strange warm and wet sensation and realised there was blood on my face. An old style television (those large solid box sets) had somehow separated itself from the brackets holding it to the wall and fell on my head.

This was to be a day of many miracles. Thankfully the television did not fall screen first, which could have caused bad cuts. I was also in the process of getting out of my chair and had a slightly bent neck at the time the television made contact, which I was told helped my spine to better absorb the impact and not suffering a broken neck. One of our team members recently attended a compulsory first aid course (a rather rare thing in an investment bank) and managed to partially stop the bleeding. All I could think of is whether I will see Carine and Lisa again and if I will be around for Emma’s birth. After what seemed an eternity, an ambulance arrived and I was stretchered off to hospital. It was a weird sensation and I was staring at the office ceiling which I have noticed for the first time and realised I have always taken it for granted to walk into the office in the mornings. I also realised that I will not make my appointment with Carine later that morning as I was supposed to meet her at the gynaecologist for her last scheduled scan before Emma’s birth.

Spare a thought for Carine – she must have had the fright of her life in receiving a call from the human resources department asking her to come to the emergency ward at Sandton clinic. Fortunately a very capable medical team stitched me up and I then underwent all the necessary scans and tests. Afterwards Carine told me that the incident was treated with some humour in hospital as the chart on the mobile bed in which I was being pushed around in hospital had a big note stating “A television fell on his head ! ”. The extent of my injuries was a miracle – except for a large gash on my head nothing was broken.

Imagine the scene which followed at our home. I am lying in bed with a severe concussion and was not able to stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. Carine is ready to give birth at any moment and we were still dealing with last vestiges of a messy building site as the alterations took longer than we have expected. Needless to say, a stressful environment which required God’s grace! Incidentally, for those who may have wondered, I had fully recovered by the time to share in Emma’s birth.

Amid all of this something very special happened when I was recovering in bed. I was sleeping for most of the first few days and one afternoon I had a vivid dream. I still remember it well. It was a pitch dark night and there were many thousands of small brightly lit stars suspended high above me (recently, in church I was reminded of the stars which were the first sign from God for us to remember Him by … And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years – Genesis 1.14, New International Version. There is  a song of The David Crowder Band  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Crowder_Band) on their album Illuminate called Stars (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhayBSnG7Xk) where one of the lines say ‘’and how could such a thing shine its light on me and make everything beautiful again’’. How true!

In my dream some magnetic force was pulling me towards a cliff face. I could not stop and was walking, almost trance like, towards the foreboding edge. It was an inhospitable environment with ugly, desolate and sharp boulders draped with depressingly thick grey skies. I continued to walk over the cliff’s edge. I was spiralling down into a strange and endless nothingness. I think I was scared. Suddenly, with no warning, a hand scooped me up and lifted me up gently and put me back on top of the cliff. I also noticed a very bright large white cross blazing in the sky and I was staring at it. Instantly the scene in my dream was transformed and I was in the Karoo, a barren, but beautiful part of South Africa. This scene seemed strangely familiar to me – part of a stretch of a 1’200 kilometre journey which I had regularly made in my student days between Stellenbosch and Johannesburg during term breaks. Ahead the tar road twisted between two rock faces and then continued into the distance. There was no one around and the sky was the bluest of blue and in sharp contrast with the dry landscape. It was surreally beautiful and I was thinking that this light was just perfect for photography. Ironically this was a neglected hobby at the time, which I have subsequently taken up again with much vigour and to my immense enjoyment. This part of the dream was no coincidence. I have recently registered a domain name and signed up with a photography web hosting platform and now have a photography website (www.bendebruynphotography.com). Here I wish some glimpses of how I observe the world around me and I hope that God will guide me how to best use this platform to also portray some of His glory and grace.

In this dream God gave me a glimpse of my spiritual life at that time. He showed me it was a spiritual wasteland, but still He cared and rescued me and has now guided me towards one of my passions.  What an amazing experience! Yet, it was strange that I could still not immediately give my life completely to Him and I still had to continue on my walk first. At least I was now going in the right direction.

 I eventually missed some three weeks of the Alpha course and had a very different attitude when I returned. I was now open to really hear not only with my head, but also with my heart. Most of the people at the course must have thought that I had simply lost interest and was amazed to hear what had happened to me. I then found the course to be very beneficial and can certainly recommend it to anyone who is still seeking.

During late 2005 our church invited an ex-mercenary soldier and then Christian convert from Zimbabwe to speak at a Sunday church service. In his past he was part of a gang who by his own account did some unspeakable things in that country. He then told us an amazing story where on one day they planned to attack a Christian gathering and to massacre people. You could hear a pin drop in church. He then told us the amazing story on how God intervened that day so that no attack took place and how he was saved at the church service. He has been preaching the Gospel since. When he had finished his talk he made an alter call.

I have always been petrified of these calls which were made from time to time in church and felt the usual myriad of emotions whelming up, fluctuating wildly between guilt and excitement, but mostly discomfort. Until that day I could never bring myself to get up and submit in open confession my belief in Christ. My emotions were no different that day, but I was very moved by what I have heard. Still, I was terrified, but somehow gained the courage to fight through these feelings and to my own surprise (and to Carine’s), stood up and walked down the auditorium isle, bent down and received blessings and prayer. This was the first public confession of my faith and as with many things, the most difficult. Soon thereafter I could admit with all my heart that I believed in Christ and then started to take communion.

Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013

 

Chapter 1 – Drifting away and then stumbling in through the backdoor

I grew up as a happy child sheltered comfortably in a middle class home with very caring and supportive parents. On Sundays my sister and I dressed up in our Sunday best and we were whisked off to the Dutch Reformed church and our Sunday school lessons. Church services were formalistic and at times felt a bit dreary. For reasons unknown to me I became cynical and over time drifted away from church. This started around the time I finished high school, carried on though my university years and was the case for much of my professional career.

During this time I did not recognise the many blessings God continued to shower on me. An exception was one brief but profound interaction with God in the midst of a key second year law exam. Halfway through the exam I realised that I was in deep trouble and despite not having prayed for years sent an urgent prayer for divine intervention. It came and I was suddenly drifting on clouds of incredible clarity and comprehension and somehow was guided to successfully complete the paper and pass. It must have been a testimony of how far off I was in my walk towards God as I quickly forgot how God had lifted me out of that hole.

The stark realities of South Africa became more obvious to me during my university years. Looking back, it was surreal how the old government propaganda machine coloured in and justified the apartheid policies. Thankfully South Africa has since experienced a miraculous transformation and political and social reformation. With the guiding hand of God and with efforts of many special people the canvas bearing the new society was and is still being shaped. I believe that by God’s grace the finished painting will eventually be full of harmony and there may no longer be a divided society.

I am no longer the cynic I once was and my road to redemption was one of gradual change, coupled with a dramatic intervention from God to get my attention. A series of events eventually led to my first public confession of my belief in Christ in 2005. Only recently, have I understood the importance of having a living relationship with God and have I now embarked with a journey along this path.

God works in remarkable ways. I now live in Geneva, Switzerland, a city known for its reformation in the distant past. Without realising it, God was guiding me on my own reformation in the journey to and perhaps later beyond Geneva. The road which I have been travelling has been full of interesting twists and turns.

I pick up the story during the early 1990’s when I was still a young investment banker in my late twenties and at the peak of my arrogance. At this time I was working in the corporate finance team of Absa Group Limited (“Absa”), a South African banking group now owned by Barclays Plc. At this time my focus was on deals, money and image. Although I was outwardly self assured, confident, even bordering on being arrogant, I inwardly struggled with demons of self doubt in my abilities and achievements and I was forever concerned about people’s perceptions. These feelings were compounded by the knowledge that our corporate finance team was not regarded as one of the top tier businesses in the market. I guess these struggles are inevitable if you do not walk securely with God, but this I did not understand at the time. My interactions with the church were limited to weddings and Christmas morning church services with my parents. God did not feature in the picture.

On a personal level my family were on the brink of giving up hope that I will find a suitable wife. Their scepticism was well founded as I have not had a serious relationship for some time and along the way have made some bad mistakes. To make things worse, I was suffering from a pretty deep scar of a love lost in a situation where nothing should ever have been in the first place. Finding God taught me to forgive and to let go of that chapter of my life. This was deeply rewarding.

Recently I have thought of an encounter with someone who was briefly part of my life more than twenty years ago. Today I finally understand what she was trying to say so many years ago. A holiday romance after my last school year led to irregular contact between us for number of years, mostly when I was still at university at Stellenbosch in the Western Cape of South Africa. Later on, when I tried to re-establish contact, she had found and embraced God. It gave her great joy and comfort. She attended regular church services and was deeply involved in church activities. After dinner one evening, she asked …“Ben, why are you trying to re-establish contact? My answer was that I was willing to see if we could see each other more often and see where things eventually end up. After explaining her relationship with God she replied … “Ben, I have accepted God in my life, and I am deeply involved in my relationship with Him…” I was on a rocky path and my stumbled reply showed ignorance and my worldly view. She simply said …“Please do not ask me to choose between God and you as I cannot do that”. We did not have much contact after that evening. If by some chance she ever reads this or if I should I get the opportunity to say it in person, it has taken me many years but now I understand what you meant that night.

Carine was instrumental in guiding and leading me along the path to God. God, off course, designed the circumstances leading up to our unexpected meeting in the first place and scripted our journey to eventually marry. This story is by far my favourite one to tell and shows how true love can unexpectedly embrace us (for me this was certainly the case, but it did take some time to convince Carine). Our chance encounter took place on a Friday afternoon during late summer in the Drakensburg mountain range in the lush green KwaZulu Natal region of South Africa. We were attending a first session of a development programme designed by Absa to broaden our world view, leadership development and to provide us with a better appreciation of cultural diversity. Although this was a fantastic opportunity and a wonderfully rich program, the arrogant investment banker I was initially thought it is an unwanted distraction and will be a waste of time. I advised the head of our investment banking business of my thoughts and that I think it is best if I do not attend. Thank God for wiser men like Glenn Povey (bless you and the kids) simply put his foot down and told me it is not a debate – I have to go.

Carine is tall and attractive. I noticed her instantly and when we spoke for the first time during dinner that night, something strange triggered deep inside me. One look into her green blue eyes was enough to rattle carefully constructed defensive walls, a remnant of the love lost and designed to keep uncontrolled feelings at bay. For someone who likes to control the situation and meticulously plan things, these unexpected and almost alien feelings shook up my world. I fell asleep bewildered that night, confused and feeling somewhat love struck. What was happening to me? I was not able to deny these feelings and rather irrationally decided to immediately brush ego aside and tell her how I feel. This may sound more than a little mad, but it is exactly what I did. On the last day of our three day get together I had my chance. Carine was enjoying a quite moment outside and I interrupted her silence and blurted out how I felt. Possibly the words did not came out as I had intended, but the poor girl could not believe what she was hearing and began to shake from shock. At that moment I realised that what may seem to like a superb idea will not always have the story book outcome, well at least not immediately. Unfortunately her reaction was far from what I had in mind. Before I could make an awkward situation worse, others joined us and the moment was lost. Driving back the next day I tried to console myself by thinking that at least I had managed to brush ego aside long enough to say exactly how I feel, despite the very strange things she must be thinking about me on her journey back to Cape Town, some 1’500 kilometres away. After all, the optimist I am, perhaps not an opportunity lost.

Many a movie has depicted the excitement of long telephone conversations during the courtship phase. There is an evolutionary path where you slowly start to get to know each other and one day realise that the last conversation lasted an hour or two, with no idea where the time went. Carine and I were enjoying this experience. Persistence usually pays off and I was slowly making inroads in my quest to win her heart over. After a few months I managed to convince Carine to join me for lunch in the Western Cape (my best friend and his wife went along as part of the deal) and topped off the weekend with an early dinner at Spier, a Stellenbosch wine farm two days later. Driving back under starry skies I tried yet another desperate move with borrowed music and played two songs to Carine. The first was ‘Take a chance on me` from Abba’ (always hard to admit one is a fan, but look at the result!) and a Van Morrison song, ‘Someone exactly like you`. These were also the first two songs which opened up the dance floor at our wedding celebrations some 18 months later.

Carine eventually moved to Johannesburg and attended Rosebank Union, an English speaking multi-denomination Baptist driven church in a leafy Sandton suburb, north of Johannesburg. I was still stuck in a spiritual wasteland, but slowly became more aware of the emptiness inside me and a longing for that to be filled. Also, I could see how committed Carine had become to God and what a great example she was for others. This has been valuable lesson for me – the day to day behaviour of Christians must be a living testimony of our belief. Others will eventually take notice and that may be the seeds they need to start questioning and embarking on their own personal journeys.

After the birth of Lisa, our first daughter, things gradually changed as I felt some responsibility to be part of Lisa’s introduction to church. God, off course, had a clear roadmap which I was still unaware of. At Rosebank Union church I enjoyed the rich sermons of a wonderfully gifted pastor, Ellis Andre, exactly what I needed at that time. At first I attended infrequently, but over time gradually improved my attendance.

Yet, I could not bring myself to take communion as I was not able to openly or in my deepest being profess my faith in remembrance of the price Jesus had paid for our sins. I was petrified by the warning in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (New International Version) “… Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks of the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats or drinks without recognising the body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgement on himself …”. It was interesting to read in C. S Lewis’s book, ’Surprised by Joy’ some thoughts he expressed about his first experiences of communion, where he mentioned that “… I allowed myself to be prepared for confirmation … and to make my first communion in total disbelief, acting a part, eating and drinking my own condemnation …”. It is true that I did not and could not then know the real nature of the thing I was doing: but I knew very well that I was acting a lie with the greatest possible solemnity…”.

 At this stage, I was seeking some insurance policy and thought that I will find Christianity by osmoses. I realise now that one cannot secure an admission ticket to Heaven. Accepting Christ as our saviour is only the first step. A living relationship with Jesus will then develop, that changes who we are and how we do things. Still, my walk to God first required a rather dramatic intervention which I will describe in the next chapter.

Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013